Soil and Water Conservation Commission eyes making grant program permanent

By Brad Carlson; Capital Press

Concrete re-lining work on the upper New York Canal in central Boise. Boise Project Board of Control

BOISE — The Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission plans to ask the Legislature during next year’s session to make a temporary grant program permanent.

The 2022 Legislature restarted the commission’s Water Quality Program for Agriculture by approving $5 million.

The commission this year issued grants for 47 projects worth about $18.5 million when matching funds are included, said Delwyne Trefz, the administrator.

The commission received 93 grant applications seeking $12 million. The projects were valued at more than $30 million when matching funds are included, he said.

“The state was going to get a good bang for its buck,” Trefz said.

“We’re going to go back and try to get an ongoing appropriation slotted in there,” he said. How much money the commission will ask the 2023 Legislature to appropriate is to be determined.

The grants target projects that improve water quality and quantity, particularly irrigation system efficiency. The program’s predecessor, discontinued about a decade ago, addressed water quality exclusively.

The quantity component “is related to the fact that historical weather patterns have not played out reliably,” Trefz said. “We’re just trying to preserve the ability of producers in the state to have enough water and to use the water efficiently.”

User groups during this year’s legislative session saw a need to fund smaller projects that would not necessarily qualify for federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

The grants also can help work start sooner. A grant helped Owyhee County’s South Board of Control move forward with irrigation lateral work that was set to be put on hold.

“That’s an example of a good project with good value, and because of inflation, it wasn’t going to cashflow,” Trefz said. “It’s back on.”

The commission also issued grants to kickstart several projects that will qualify for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service money.

The Boise Project Board of Control has been relining New York Canal in central Boise. The project this year received grants from the Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the state Water Resource Board. Other funding sources include a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation loan under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and Project budget reserves.

Relining the six-mile stretch of canal will save about 19,380 acre-feet of water a year, said Bob Carter, Boise project manager. Receiving the grants means the work can be done in 6 to 10 years instead of 50.

Crews this year will reline 500 to 600 feet, and “next year would be the start of trying to use the bigger money to get more accomplished,” he said.

Idaho has 50 conservation districts.

Grants by soil and water conservation district:

• Ada, New York Canal lining, $267,000.

• Balanced Rock, corner pivot conversion, $103,045.

•Bear Lake, Dingle ditch to pipe, $155,404.

•Butte, Nichols water quality and efficiency improvements, $335,177.

•Canyon, Bicandi irrigation conversion, $214,276 and Canyon Ditch Co. auto headgate, $69,736.

•Caribou, Thatcher Lego stock water and irrigation, $158,235.

•Central Bingham, Central Bingham Irrigation. $110,000.

•Clearwater, Louise Creek culverts, $9,061.

•Custer, Salmon Ranch irrigation, $70,000.

•East Side, Coles pivots, $55,000, Coles no-fence, $33,000.

•Elmore, Hammett Pipeline, $275,000.

•Franklin, Twin Lakes Canal improvement, $55,623, Mound Valley stream bank, $47,445.

•Gem, Lower Payette pivots, $205,658.

•Gooding, Wate Ranch sediment ponds, $10,477.

•Idaho, Butcher/Threemile Creek livestock best management practices, $29.125.

• Cottonwood Creek best management practices, $275,177.

•Jefferson, Parks and Lewisville Irrigation Co., $55,000, Allred Pipeline, $34,570.

•Latah, Corral Creek and West Fork of Big Bear Creek, $101,574.

•Lemhi, Lemhi Road Mile 32 restoration, $209,539.

•Lewis, livestock operation best management practices, $105,471, soil health best management practices, $58,300.

•Madison, Bannock Feeder Canal Co,. headgate replacement, $110,000.

•Minidoka, NPA irrigation efficiency, $41,800, irrigation and nutrient management in beets, $20,584.

•Nez Perce, Lapwai Creek water quality improvements, $156,729.

•North Bingham, irrigation project, $110,000.

•Oneida, irrigation enhancement, $54,502.

•Owyhee, South Board of Control lateral 26.9, $315,000, Cossel irrigation conversion, $24,590.

•Knefel (landowner), surface to sprinkler irrigation, $43,509.

•Portneuf, Swan Lake Creek Forage Kochia project, $1,159, Yellow Dog Creek work, $55,000.

•Power, Rock Creek Water irrigation, $55,000, Rock Creek water quality and quantity, $93,524.

•Sunny Side Ditch Co., replace failing diversion and weir, $40,125.

•Teton, Desert Canal work, $55,000.

•Twin Falls, Clover Pumping Co. upgrade, $330,000.

•West Cassia, irrigation efficiency, $60,500.

•West Side, pivots, $182,118.

•Wood River, irrigation efficiency, $60,500.

•Yellowstone, North Fork Teton River pivot, $69,661.21, Conant Creek Canal lining, headgate, $38,500.

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